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OPINION: Look to your dog for life lessons

Now that my time is in less demand as a parent, I notice more.

Our adopted dog Walter has changed my outlook and attitude on everyday life. Dogs like Walter are positive living examples of how to interact with and respond to the world.

They know how to stop and smell the fresh air and take notice of what they smell. They feel the sun and wind on their face and savor the sensation. Our canine companions acknowledge the small stuff. We humans forget to do these kinds of things.

If a dog sees an object that gets him or her excited, they will go after it without hesitation, questions or any doubt — something people need to do more. Although Walter's exuberance can sometimes trip me up when he sees a deer, squirrel or bird while we're hiking or running as I'm holding onto the leash.

Dogs make us feel special every day. They welcome us home every time we walk in the door with the same excitement each and every day. Something we all should make a habit of doing for our loved ones.

It's amazing how our dogs are able to demonstrate how much they love us with their actions. They'll lick us until we're soaked, jump around, perk up their ears or wag their tails wildly over our presence — and it's a great feeling to be acknowledged this way. Our spouses may not enjoy being heavily licked, but we can demonstrate our affection for them with our actions more often.

Dogs are appreciative creatures. No matter what we do for them, they are eternally grateful. They're grateful for food, no matter how often they're given the exact same thing.

Dogs get excited about everything. Going for a car ride, a walk, a hike, a game of fetch, a chew toy or taking the trash out — it doesn't matter — dogs view everything as an adventure. Imagine if we viewed life this way.

And dogs are ideal workout buddies. They understand the importance of outside time, enjoying nature, having fun in the sunshine, playing, running and getting exercise.

But our canine friends also take time to rest. When they're worn out, they fully enjoy sprawling out on the floor to nap. Taking advantage of rest time is something humans need to schedule into their busy lives more often.

And if you need a good listener, go to your dog. They don't criticize, judge or say "I told you so." They're always there, and they'll do anything to cheer you up.

Dogs don't complain either. They don't care where they're going as they're simply content to go someplace. They live in the moment.

Without activity, dogs incur bad and destructive habits. We all need something to keep us busy or we tend to lean on bad habits, whether it be negative self talk or making unhealthy choices.

Walter tends to chew on stuff, such as flip flop shoes, plastic toy cars in the sandbox and garden hoses. If he's bored, he resorts to these bad habits.

But probably the most notable lesson I've learned from our dog is that when a dog comes home stinking like manure, they're not bothered at all by the crap they encountered that day.

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